June 2011 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles



Cerro Gordo is again open to day visitors, road and weather conditions permitting.

Please phone (760-876-5030) for current conditions before venturing out!

A caretaker is living on on the site and visitors must check in before venturing around the ghost town.

No supplies or accommodations are available at Cerro Gordo and visitors should bring plenty of drinking water and haul out their own trash. The dirt road from Keeler to Cerro Gordo is a steep, eight mile ascent. Four wheel drive is not usually required, but vehicles should have adequate ground clearance.

Phone 760-876-5030 for current information or contact us through email at:


Robert C. Likes, co-author of From This Mountain--Cerro Gordo, has  completed a second book about Cerro Gordo.

Click on the cover image (above) to learn more.

This is a story of a generation that sought its own self-identity in a world that suddenly became more complicated with an uncertain future and values.

This epic journey was staged on desert mountains, on steamboats carrying silver bullion across a desert lake, and on a freighting trail that traversed 200 miles of inhospitable desert.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you


A new book

by Nick Garieff

Discovering Bodie tells stories about twenty residents of the High Sierra ghost town of Bodie, California. Included are a selection of the author's black and white photographs presented as duochromes of buildings or artifacts relating to the residents lives.

The story of Eli and Lottie Johl is an example of new revelations this book uncovers.

Published 2010 by Nick Gariaeff, Gilroy, CA.
80 pages including 64 photographs.
8 1/2 inch square perfect bound
ISBN 978-0-984363

Click on the book cover above to go to discoveringbodie.com

LOGO T Shirts Available


Explore Historic California with our  logo depicting the California backcountry and its rich history both true and farce.

We now offer shirts, sweats, jerseys and cups with our logo.

Click the shirt for details!


Friends of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.

Please click on either logo to visit the FLCC site.

We support

Bodie Foundation
"Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past


Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


The Panamint Breeze is a newsletter for people who love the rough and rugged deserts and mountains of California and beyond.

Published by Ruth and Emmett Harder, it is for people who are interested in the history of mining in the western states; and the people who had the fortitude to withstand the harsh elements.

It contains stories of the past and the present; stories of mining towns and the colorful residents who lived in them; and of present day adventurers.

Subscriptions are $20 per year (published quarterly – March, June, September & December) Subscriptions outside the USA are $25 per year. All previous issues are available. Gift certificates are available also.

To subscribe mail check (made payable to Real Adventure Publishing) along with name, address, phone number & e-mail address to:  Real Adventure Publishing, 18201 Muriel Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92407.

For more information about the Panamint Breeze e-mail Ruth at:  echco@msn.com

It's always FIRE SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.

Visit Michael Piatt's site, www.bodiehistory.com, for the truth behind some of Bodie's myths.

Terri Geissinger is a Bodie area Historian, Guide and Chautauquan. A long time resident who lives in Bodie and Smith Valley, she is dedicated to preserving stories of the pioneer families, miners, ranchers and teamsters. Click the photo for information on her tours with the Bodie Foundation.

Credo Quia Absurdum




Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway.

     Click your mouse through the website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.



Exploring California Native American Horticulture

by Cecile Page Vargo

Long before the explorers stepped foot on California soil, Native Americans thrived as hunters and gatherers living off of natural grown plants for most of their food and material needs. As Anglos arrived all native people were given the unflattering term “Digger” as they were observed digging for roots and gathering acorns. In truth, the “Digger Indians” were the first horticulturists, with an extensive knowledge of how to caretake and co-exist in multi ecosystems.

Northern California tribes were noted for propagating the vegetation they needed. As basket making materials and food plants were used up, division and re-plantation techniques were developed to avoid exhausting much needed supplies. Willow and redbud for baskets were both harvested faster than the plants could regenerate.

Group of Digger Indian Squaws circa 1866 by Lawrence & Houseworth.

 Courtesy Library of Congress collection.

Succulent and supple sprouts were the most valuable to the women basket makers.  Fire was used to provoke new growth by burning stiff, knotted old growth. When fire wasn’t practical, the wild plants of the chaparral were hand-pruned. Roots, bulbs, and new plants were urged to grow in greater abundance in new locations.

Out of fifteen species of oak trees that dot the golden hills of California, only seven were actually used by the Native Californians for the acorns they produce. The acorn crop varies from year to year. The valley oak (Quercus lobata) only produces a heavy crop every third year or so. Tribes would travel short distances to harvest crops from alternate species of trees. Elevated granaries of twigs and brush were constructed to store as much as two years supply of acorns. Fresh cedar boughs and California bay discouraged insect damage. Pitch was smeared on supporting poles of the granaries for rodent control. The black oak (Quercus kelloggii) in the more mountainous inland regions of California was relied on during the extremely lean years, where woodpeckers were observed storing acorns in the large holes they drilled in the bark.

Cashes or Indian acorn storehouses circa 1875.

 Courtesy Library of Congress collection.

The digger pines (Pinus sabiniana) grow on coastal and lower Sierra Nevada foothill ranges, above the oak line thrive on steep rocky walls of poor ground and on near vertical cliffs where other foliage refuses to grow. The large spiked cone of the digger tree was valuable for its' large nutritious nuts, similar to those of the pinyon pines which were also harvested. 

The meat did not contain tannin, so could be eaten immediately, unlike the acorn. In the springtime,  cones were beaten off of the lower limbs of the trees with sticks, while they were still green. The process of beating the limbs also encouraged new and better growth. The majority of cones were produced on the higher branches of the tree were reached by the men who climbed the trees and twisted them off by hand.

Green cones were pounded until they split apart, nuts extracted were then pounded into meal or roasted whole. The bare core of the cone that remained was roasted in hot ashes for twenty minutes or more for its' sweet syrupy food. In the fall, mature cones fallen from trees were gathered and dropped into a fire to burn off pitch. The cone was destroyed to release the nut which was cracked for meat and then roasted.

Even the dead digger pines provided useful, for it’s thick bark was easily separated from the trunks, and could be used for the conical huts which provided housing instead of tents made from hides of animals.

Desert dwelling Native Americans relied on sagebrush and mesquite. Sage leaves were crushed and rubbed onto corpses to ward off ghosts, and to make mourning necklaces to discourage dreaming of the dead and undoubtedly helped in control of decaying odors. The scented foliage also helped control odors in dwellings, and was used to control fleas and ticks in beddings.

Sagebrush covered desert landscape from original stereograph circa 1867-1869 by Timothy H. O'Sullivan.

 Courtesy Library of Congress collection.

The mesquite tree proved valuable for it’s nutritious pods which contained 25% sugar. Pod and beans were eaten together after being pounded and allowed to become sticky, then rolled into compact balls for the original travel convenience meal.  The Cahuilla tribes encouraged new growth on mesquite trees by breaking off the less productive branches to help grow more beans. The new growth at lower trunk levels was encouraged for easier harvest, as well. Groves of mesquite trees were set on fire for mistletoe control, and to promote more new growth. The fires also thinned the trees, providing less competition for limited water and nutrients in the  harsh desert ground. 

California Native Americans proved to be proactive in environmental control for food and material production, using natural methods and indigenous plants. Water was often scarce, and irrigation was virtually unpracticed, except in rare instances, but common California species were well adapted to the environment and thrived on what water nature could offer.

History shows us, however, that the most primary tool available for horticultural purposes was fire, and this use was observed and recorded in early Spanish explorer journals and diaries. Even in areas where animals were available to supplement natural vegetation for food supplies, fire proved useful to thin out and encourage new improved plant growth.

Not only was visual distance and movement facilitated in burned areas, but game populations were increased as more food sprouted on fire-burned ground. While not farmers or horticulturalists in the traditional sense of the word, the California Native Americans were far more than just “diggers” taking from the land and not reaping. We still have much to learn from them today.



Redwoods and Roses, The Gardening Heritage of California and the Old West

by Maureen Gilmer

Taylor Publishing 1995

Out of  Print


Images of Native Californians and acorn cache

Courtesy Library of Congress collection



The Clampers' Latest Erection

Honoring the Slash X Ranch

by Roger Vargo


Members of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus gathered near Barstow, California, last month to honor the Slash X Ranch and Cafe by erecting a monument. Built in 1953, the cafe serves meals and liquid refreshment to desert travelers and locals alike.

In addition to the historical plaquing, Billy Holcomb Chapter 1069, the sponsor of the event, took in new members.

E Clampus Vitus is a male-only historical society that traces its' heritage back to Adam as the first "Clamper." In Clamper time, the year 2011 is the year 6016.

Read more about the Slash X event from the Barstow Daily Press.

Read more about the history of E Clampus Vitus here.


Concrete (top, left) is tamped into the form. Golf clubs (a #10, #6 and #9 iron) is inserted into the mold along with other memorabilia (top, right). The clubs honor the memory of Bob Hope.

Clamper concrete work requires support from not only metal bolts, but also ample liquid refreshment.

After the concrete set, the plaque was dedicated Sunday, May 1, 2011.


Part of Clamper tradition is the induction ("taking in") of new members, called "Poor Blind Candidates" or "PBCs". Here (above) a group of PBCs are examined (questioned) on their worthiness by a panel of senior members, called "Gray Beards". More than 80 PBCs were taken in at this Clampout.

Gray Beards Sid Blumner (left) and Noble Grand Humbug Cass Ellsworth (right) put PBCs to the test.

PBC examinations are witnessed by the assembled members.
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